The Truth About Long-Term Weight Loss
You should know that the odds are against you. Most people who lose weight gain it all back. But this doesn’t mean that you are destined to become such a statistic. There are people who do experience long-term weight-loss success. To be one of them, you need to realize that it is possible to keep the weight off—and even to lose more. But since it may be difficult at times, you need to be realistic and plan how you’ll overcome the struggles.
I think that it’s important to be told the real deal. If you’re aware of what it takes to lose and keep weight off and then you commit to doing it, you will succeed. It’s as simple as that.
The body’s physiological response to losing weight may mean that you feel hungrier than normal, or think of food more often. Or you may feel lazier and inclined to reduce all your spontaneous activity (jumping up to do run errands, putting extra vigor into housework, playing with your kids or pets), thereby preserving energy. It appears that the body’s tendency to revert back to previous body weight can be triggered even from losing just five to 10 percent of your starting weight. So if you weighed 200 and lost 10 to 20 pounds or you weighed 150 pounds and lost 8 to 15 pounds, you may have to work hard in order to maintain that loss.
Most people look for the best diets to lose weight. But what scientists have realized is that losing weight is the easy part. Most diets, healthy or not, do work. You can drop pounds fairly quickly, especially the more overweight you are . But no matter how you lose the weight, the real challenge is to keep it off long-term.
If you’ve been overweight or obese for two years, 10 years, or 20 years, a short-term diet or fitness plan won’t solve your problem. Obesity is a chronic disorder which requires a long-term approach. What you can’t do is follow a program such as the Lose 10 Pounds in 5 Weeks plan, and then revert back to those behaviors that made you overweight or obese in the first place. Once you’ve lost weight and you are trying to maintain the loss, or lose even more, you will find that, at times, it will be difficult. But, you will also experience periods where you enjoy eating more healthfully and your exercise sessions feel easy.
Beware of being disillusioned. Many books, magazines and weight-loss products trying to motivate you into buying their plans purposefully make things sound easier than they are. Yes, you can lose weight and keep it off. You can get fit and stay fit. But is it as easy as spending a few minutes per week using an exercise gizmo? Or will one simple diet food or supplement do the trick? No.
You are going to have to stay disciplined—and keep finding ways to stay motivated to do so. You’ll be faced with temptations and you’ll have to find ways to resist or avoid them. In today’s busy world, environmental factors such as fast-food chains everywhere and too many sedentary activities like TV-watching, driving and using computers, lead you to eat more and exercise less.
But your environment, and more importantly, how you respond to it is something you can control. Some people who strive to lose weight may simply have a physiology that means it will always feel like a struggle to eat well and exercise. But many people who have been able to stick to healthier living for a long time swear that it gets easier the longer you do it.
So, if it’s so hard to keep off what you’ve already lost, can you lose even more?
Yes, although you may have limits. It’s not uncommon to experience a plateau in weight loss, especially after about six months. The body may require an adjustment period to get used to the weight loss. Keep in mind that most body systems aim to remain in a steady state, or what is known as homeostasis. Perturbing the body with continued weight loss goes against this grain. So you may need to stay in a temporary holding pattern at some point in the future, where you focus on maintaining your weight loss, rather than losing more.
Very overweight people often have unrealistic expectations about how much weight they expect to lose. A 300- or 250-pound person may want to lose 100 pounds, but may find that they seem to be able to lose less than half that. If you’re physically fit enough to increase exercise levels dramatically, you may be able to decrease more. On the other hand, if you can diet down and drop more weight, but you constantly yo-yo, it may be better to accept a sustainable weight loss. It’s still healthier to be 25 pounds less and maintain that loss than to lose vast amounts of weight—then regain it—and continue to yo-yo back and forth on a dieting spiral where you may end up at an even heavier weight than you started at. While a smaller, more realistic weight loss may not make you as slim as you wish, you will still have improved your health dramatically. Your medical profile (blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin sensitivity) can improve with as little as a 5 percent weight loss.
If you keep exercising, you may find that over the years your body fat levels go down significantly. There have not been enough long-term studies looking at how years and years of exercise affect body weight, but it’s known that regular exercisers are rarely obese. And even if you stay a few pounds heavier than you’d like to be, you will always be healthier if you are consistently active.
The key to maintaining your weight loss is sticking to better eating and regular exercise. To do that, you need to stay motivated. Knowledge is power. And if you keep informed on the latest findings on weight loss, nutrition and fitness, you’ll find the inspiration to carry on. You can succeed and feel better than you ever have before!
Awareness and commitment are the key to beating the odds.
By Martica Heaner, M.A., M.Ed., for MSN Health & Fitness